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'Cheering for any team is not illegal'

By JYOTI PUNWANI
Last updated on: November 13, 2021 13:46 IST
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'Those who support the attacks should realise that beating Kashmiri students can't help anyone change the result of the game.'

IMAGE: Virat Kohli and Mohammed Rizwan share a hug at the end of the T20 World Cup game in Dubai on October 24, 2021, while Babar Azam exults at Pakistan's momentous victory. Photograph: Francois Nel/Getty Images

Since October 24, when India lost to Pakistan in the World Cup T20 cricket match, the J&K Students Association has been pursuing authorities wherever Kashmiri students have been attacked or punished for cheering for Pakistan.

J&K Students Association National Spokesman Nasir Khuehami tells Jyoti Punwani about the overall experience of Kashmiri students across India in the first of a two-part interview:

 

What's the latest situation regarding Kashmiri students outside Kashmir?

The most serious situation is in UP, where three students have been charged with sedition.

The Association for the Protection of Civil Rights has helped us hire a lawyer for them, after local lawyers decided not to defend them. Advocate Madhuvan Dutt Chaturvedi from Mathura will defend them.

The families of two students have reached Agra and met the three. They have been kept in a separate barrack for their own security.

These families are from marginalised backgrounds, so we helped one of them to travel to Agra. And they won't have to pay any legal fees. APCR and others will bear the costs.

The families will meet the college authorities and request that their children's suspension is revoked.

We had requested the UP CM on humanitarian grounds to drop the FIR against the students and revoke their suspension. We wrote that while there was nothing wrong in cheering for any team, if the students had written anything provocative on social media which had hurt the sentiments of people, that was wrong.

But an FIR was a very harsh punishment that would ruin their future. The government should give a chance to them so that their faith in the Indian Constitution is restored and they can resume their studies.

But I don't expect a reply. Ahead of assembly elections, the UP government will use the students as scapegoats.

We have also sent a message to Amit Khare, advisor to the PM, to give us some time.

The Agra issue wasn't such a big one. I spoke to the chief proctor of their college and he told me the students had posted congratulatory messages on their social media pages but had not raised any slogans. The college had suspended them for that action, and the students were planning to leave for Kashmir.

Then the VHP and other such groups barged into the campus and created a ruckus. They filed a police complaint. The next day, Yogi Adityanath announced that they will be charged with sedition.

Now they are in jail, though retired Supreme Court Justice Deepak Gupta has said cheering for or celebrating any team is not illegal in any way.

IMAGE: The J&K Students Association's letter to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister. Photograph: Kind courtesy Nasir Khuehami

What about Punjab?

There were three attacks on Kashmiri students in Punjab, two of them on campus and one outside campus. Students from outside Punjab -- from UP, Bihar, Haryana -- were involved, while Punjabi students rescued the Kashmiris.

In the Baba Farid college, Bathinda, the attack took place not after the match but after the Pakistan-Afghanistan match on October 29. After an inquiry, the college ordered four students identified as assailants to vacate their hostel rooms, but they revoked the order within a day.

There was a lot of pressure on them from all sides: from government, social media... This is also admission time and they get lots of students from Bihar.

Anywhere else?

In Chikkaballapur, Karnataka, the NSUI, the students' wing of the Congress, filed a complaint against Kashmiri students. As of now, there has been no FIR.

So not just the right wing, but also centrist parties such as the Congress, share the same attitude. However, I must point out that in Punjab, a delegation of the Youth Congress met the injured Kashmiri students and offered help.

You have been speaking of 20 colleges where Kashmiri students are harassed. Which are they?

I can't share their names before submitting them to the J&K government. We want to build up pressure on the government to blacklist them.

Kashmiri students go there to study, but whenever any event takes place, be it a sports event or any political development, they are unnecessarily harassed by vested interests who give these incidents a religious colour.

IMAGE: Nasir Khuehami. Photograph: Kind courtesy Nasir Khuehami

Given this environment, shouldn't Kashmiri students think twice before openly celebrating Pakistan's victory?

My colleague and I actually wrote a detailed piece (external link) in the Kashmir Observer before the India-Pakistan match saying that given the tension that always accompanies such a match, Kashmiri students should think about their families, control their emotions, and not post provocative things which would put their future at stake, and which will erode our reputation in mainland India.

We appealed to them to avoid debates, and not give a chance to anyone to scapegoat them. While respecting their emotions, we urged them not to indulge in any outburst which would hurt others' sentiments.

But what we were trying to avoid, happened on October 24.

But those who support the attacks should realise that beating Kashmiri students can't help anyone change the result of the game.

To those who say their scholarships should be withdrawn, I would like to say: They got the scholarships on their own merit. No one did them a favour by giving it to them.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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